The Buckeye Country Superfest made its return to Ohio Stadium last night. The festival had not been held in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the festival is the only concert scheduled at the stadium, which is celebrating its centennial.
Although a small rain shower early in the afternoon delayed the tailgates and Fan Fest for a couple of hours, by 2 pm, the sky seemed to be clear for the event.
The stadium was packed with over 63,000 eager, unmasked country music fans singing their hearts out donning the essentials: cowboy hats, blue bedazzled cowboy boots and American flag print. The total broke a record for the largest concert at the Ohio Stadium, according to the festival’s Twitter account.
Morgan Wade, from Floyd, Virginia, opened the show at 5 pm She has been making quite a name for herself this year.
She has topped critical lists from Rolling Stone, TIME, Stereogum, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The FADER, and Billboard Her debut single “Wilder Dreams” and her album “Reckless,” both released in 2021 were proclaimed as “a once-in-a-decade debut.”
Wade, the only woman act on the lineup, had a sense of swagger and style that all the male acts would kill to have with ease.
Her voice is reminiscent of Sheryl Crow and Adele. Wade seems prime for pop crossover like Crow and Maren Morris. She sang her hit songs like “The Night” through sunglasses holding her bright blue guitar which highlighted her sleeves of tattoos. Wade was the perfect opener for a festival.
Cameron Marlowebest known for being a contestant on season 15 of “The Voice,” took the next stage at 6 pm Marlowe has toured with artists like Brad Paisley and Lee Brice since the show.
He got the party started quite literally as his guitarist came onstage brandishing a cooler full of beer as Marlowe launched into his debut single “Sober as a Drunk” off his self-titled EP.
He told the audience how excited he was to be performing at one of the largest stadiums in college football.
“It is a dream to be playing here,” he told the crowd.
Marlowe’s voice has a growl to it that deserves to be heard in a stadium. It ricocheted across Ohio Stadium as he previewed new songs from his upcoming debut album “We Are Cowboys,” out Aug. 26.
By the end of his set, Marlowe had made his mark on the Ohio Stadium stage.
Hailing from Oklahoma — but wearing an OSU Buckeyes shirt — Zach Bryan took the stage at 7 pm
Bryan served for seven years in the US Navy until he was honorably discharged. He filmed the music video for his single Heading South Shot outside of his barracks in 2020. Bryan released his third album and his first since signing with Warner Records, “American Heartbreak” in May 2022.
He kicked the festival into high gear as the crowd leapt to their feet at the first strum of Bryan’s guitar.
Bryan’s voice has a ’90s grunge grit that makes songs like “Something in the Orange” and “From Austin” stick out in the male country music scene.
During a performance of his song “Condemned,” he even pulled a harmonica out to do a solo that sent the crowd wild.
Bryan’s set was met with a standing ovation from the crowd and chants for an encore for nearly five minutes after his set ended that were unfortunately not met.
He joked in between introducing each song that he hoped the audience “didn’t hate this one.” Hearing thousands of people chant “We Want Zach” ensures that they didn’t hate any of them.
The crowd began to pack in once the acts became bigger and bigger. Cody Jinks from Haltom City, Texas brought his personal brand of outlaw country to the stage at 8 pm
Since first emerging as a solo artist in the mid-2000s, Jinks has played nearly-empty bar rooms to independently building a dedicated following. He is known for his mix of heavy metal and country, elevating the grit that Marlowe and Bryan brought in their sets.
The crowd fed off and reciprocated Jinks’ energy throughout his entire set, leaving the crowd screaming for more.
Two-time Grammy award nominee Luke Combs took the stage as the headliner at 9:45 pm He was walked out by the Ohio State University Marching Band.
He poked fun at the OSU-Michigan rivalry, joking that when he played football for Appalachian State University in North Carolina that they beat Michigan as well.
Combs’ charisma and his connection with the audience was captivating as the crowd sang the words to his 13 No. 1 singles.
His new album, “Growin Up”, dropped June of this year and he is currently doIng on a stadium tour across America.
With songs like “The Kind of Love We Make” and “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” it was clear that Combs reaches all demographics with his music. From young kids to college students to older country music fans, they all seem to unite over Luke Combs.
Combs echoed this sentiment by championing the crowd to be authentic in themselves.
“No matter what anybody says, what anybody thinks, no matter how small the accomplishment, you be proud of who you are,” Combs said. “You be proud of what you’ve done. You stand up for the things you believe in.”
A sentiment very political as far as country music goes, but Combs was careful to not use any language pointing at one particular aspect of the spectrum.
Closing out the festival with his biggest hit, wedding song “Forever After All,” Combs had the crowd wishing his set list could indeed last forever.
All in all, the Superfest was a success. Hopefully, next year the lineup will have more diversity and be more proactive of COVID safety precautions.
David Kwiatkowski is a features intern for The Columbus Dispatch. You can reach him on Twitter @kwatkdm or his email firstname.lastname@example.org.